They are always wrong. This year’s example comes via Joe “Crankypants” Queenan of the Wall Street Journal:
But 2010 very possibly is the worst year in the history of motion pictures. Where once there was “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” there is now “Robin Hood,” prince of duds. Where once we could look forward to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Last of the Mohicans,” we can now look forward to “Dinner for Schmucks” and “The Last Airbender.”
He’s already acting in bad faith; pretending as if “The Last of the Mohicans” (a prestige picture, released in the midst of awards season, based on a historical classic novel, directed by up-and-coming auteur Michael Mann, starring Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis) is even vaguely comparable to “The Last Airbender” (a popcorn kids’ movie, released in the middle of summer, based on a children’s television program, directed by washed-up M. Night Shyamalan, starring some no-name kids).
He also has the usual complaints about sequels, but this is nothing new. Hollywood is always out of ideas, and franchises sell. (Strangely, he mentions nothing about international box office, which matters a lot more than it used to. Producing a film that can play well across various nationalities often means smoothing over and blandness. For example, Prince of Persia is regarded with a scoff in Queenan’s piece, but made boffo box office overseas.) Was Queenan complaining when Batman Returns, Die Hard 2, Beverly Hills Cop [insert number here], Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future Part X, Indiana Jones and all the rest of the late-80s early-90s schlock came out?
My biggest beef with Queenan’s piece is that it’s the same complaints about Hollywood not making great movies any more:
In a millennium that has thus far produced precious few motion pictures in the same class as “The Godfather,” “Jurassic Park,” “Casablanca,” “Gone with the Wind,” “My Fair Lady” and “The Matrix,” there is a knee-jerk tendency to throw up one’s hands and moan that the current year is the worst in the history of motion pictures. But 2010 very possibly is the worst year in the history of motion pictures.
Has any decade produced motion pictures in the same class as Godfather, Casablanca, Jurassic Park, (seriously, rewatch that movie… it has not aged well) et al?
Yes, many of the best movies are made outside the Hollywood sphere, as one can see from mine and Linus’s best of the aughts film lists. Nevertheless, off the top of my head, non-foreign non-indie Hollywood movies that are in the “same class” as the classics, since 2000:
- Finding Nemo
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- The Pianist
- Requiem for a Dream
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Bourne II and III
- Brokeback Mountain
- Million Dollar Baby
- Kill Bill
- Lost in Translation
- Ghost World
In summary, this guy is ignoring the facts in order to make a point. And there have been plenty of big decent blockbusters in the 00s, which would be “in the same class” that I did not include (Batman reboots, Avatar, LOTR, District 9, etc.).
Has this summer been bad? Yes. Has this summer been worse than most? No.
Someone buy Joe Queenan a ticket to see “Winter’s Bone” already.